Bailout By Ballot


Washington State just held an election. It included a ballot initiative asking voters to require labels on food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The campaign opposing the measure raised 22 million dollars. And how much of that came from state residents and companies registered in the state?

550 bucks.

Yup, you read that right. The other $21,999,450 came from mega-corporations like Monsanto, DuPont, and Bayer. Yes, this election truly honored the grassroots, “We The People” spirit that the ballot initiative process was designed to engage.

The advertising onslaught against the measure was relentless. One ad claimed the initiative was “clumsy and costly with no demonstrable benefits”. I think they borrowed that phrase from the guys who market those $24.99 books politicians have to write before running for President.

Regardless, this whole process gave me an idea. States should use the tainted reality of the ballot initiative as a form of stimulus. It’s a cash cow just begging to be milked. So, if you’re lucky enough to live in a ballot-initiative state, here’s what you should do:

Find the largest, richest companies in the land. And then float a ballot initiative that’s guaranteed to piss them off. Go for something big like a ban on all soft-drinks and food-products containing sugar. The fact that the initiative doesn’t stand a chance in hell of passing is irrelevant, because that’s not the goal. Everyone knows it’s going down like a family-values conservative in a men’s room stall. The objective is to get an avalanche of money from Pepsi and Nestle and the sugar barons flooding into your state. Next thing you know, you’ve got:

* Thousands of previously unemployed people standing at intersections with a clipboard, telling voters that sugar strengthens erections and combats hair-loss.

* Millions of dollars going into print ads and mailers with studies proving that sugar is good for your teeth.

* Hundreds of TV actors now employed as “working parents distraught that Halloween will be ruined for their children, leading to divorce and family-breakups.”

* Voice-actors making bucks doing their best to sound like “embattled small business owners.”

And so on. Ed Harris was totally wrong in Apollo 13. Failure is always an option, and a lucrative one at that, if it’s done right.

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